Say Something Nice: NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1991)

Even a licensed Chevy apologist knows this one's not great, but one scene is!

Movie fans know all too well that you have to wade through a lot of disappointment to find the good stuff. And it’s not always some binary pile-sorting of "good movies" and "bad movies"; sometimes there’s quality material smack in the middle of the muck. Say Something Nice is dedicated to those gems - memorable, standout, even great moments from movies that...well, aren’t. 

When you're a kid, as long as a movie doesn't bore you into shutting it off, chances are you like it - I can't recall being too critical of this or that movie when I was nine years old ("Police Academy 5 really fails to live up to the standards of the originals..."). But as I sat down in a theater watching Nothing But Trouble - the first time I got to see my hero Chevy on the big screen - I knew something was... "off". I didn't dislike the movie, but I sure as hell had to pretend I liked it more than I did to keep my sister and our two friends from being even angrier at me, as they all wanted to see King Ralph (I secured the trip to Valkenvania in the most noble way - I cried). And I had to do the same thing when we rented it a few months later when it came to VHS; I vividly recall forcing myself to laugh when Dan Aykroyd was first revealed to Chevy and his pals ("Look who's got the front seat to the Mexican hat dance now!" he shouts, whatever the hell that means) and seeing my dad's pained expression, likely wondering what game he was missing to watch this goddamn thing. Thanks for being a good sport, Pop. 

Needless to say, it didn't join Fletch and Christmas Vacation among the ranks of Chevy Chase vehicles that I would know by heart, though I've probably still watched it more than any human being on the planet has (six or seven times?). As I've gotten older I've come to appreciate things that wouldn't have meant shit to me when I was 11, such as its terrific production design, the Dean Cundey photography, and the idea that Dan Aykroyd (in his directorial debut/swan song) got Warner Bros. to spend 40 million dollars on a movie where he had a penis for a nose. But one thing has kind of always been appreciated, then and now - the film's soundtrack. It's as crazy and random as the film around it - I doubt too many soundtrack albums include Hank Williams, Madonna, and Damn Yankees, if any. However, it's Digital Underground - then high off the success of "The Humpty Dance" - who makes the biggest impression, because they actually appear in the film.

In a scene any Tupac Shakur fan has probably watched a dozen times, Aykroyd's Judge Valkenheiser has to pass judgment on a passing van of musicians, i.e. a hip-hop group led by a guy who also has a funny nose (beyond the corporate synergy - film distributor WB owned Tommy Boy, the band's label - it's the only thing I can think of that put these two things together). Because this is Nothing But Trouble and nothing can occur in a real world way, the musicians aren't asked to explain why they were speeding or whatever, but instead prove they're really a band by playing a song in the middle of the courtroom. And they do! They play their minor hit "Same Song", which got heavy MTV airplay at the time and, since it had film clips, probably scared the crap out of young viewers who were confronted with images of the giant man-baby mutants Bobo and Lil' Debull (one played by Aykroyd again - you certainly can't call this a *vanity* project) or a roller coaster that would strip you of your bones. 

What's great about the scene (other than seeing young Tupac's wide-eyed expression when Aykroyd joins in on the song by playing an organ) is that it sort of encapsulates the kitchen sink attitude of the entire movie for those who actually enjoy it, but is also entertaining on its own. What's not to like? You get an infectious tune, an old man having fun while dancing girls egg him on, and (probably cathartic for anyone who ever worked with him) Chevy Chase in chains. Even if you're aghast at the rest of the movie, this four minute slice can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone with a soul. I didn't even realize until writing up this very article that this was actually Tupac's first commercial appearance in film or music, so it's a legit historic piece of film footage for a man who would go on to be a rather gifted actor in addition to his much (and deserved) lauded skills as a musician. As for why it's got a German dub, it was the only one on YouTube I could find that would let me embed it here, but it just kind of adds to the lunacy so I'm fine with it. 

P.S. If you're an Underground fan, they stick around for "Tie the Knot" a wedding jam for when Chevy marries John Candy, who is in drag as a mute named Eldona. Both songs are on their EP. The movie itself has only been released on full frame DVD. There are no petitions to change this. 

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